Deaf Life22nd April 2015

Turning A Deaf Ear Should Mean Greater Awareness

Used commonly to criticise being ignored, everyone should know action is needed to prevent isolation of Deaf people

by Sarah Lawrence

As a Deaf woman I have been subjected on numerous occasions to ignorance being shown to me about my deafness and my communication needs when going about everyday activities. Quite frankly, it seems at times that the understanding of the term Deaf in the hearing world is just not there. I fully understand that there are some finer details involved in identifying how Deaf someone might be and what then needs to be done to work with them, however, it is the recoil away from me when I explain I am Deaf that I struggle to understand.

The reason behind me being mystified is that searching around for Deaf News today, I was astonished to find Google throwing up story after story. Strange, I thought, there is always something that is newsworthy across the international Deaf community, but literally tens of stories each day? So I read on, eager to find out more.

What I found interested me, because by and large it had escaped me just how much the hearing world refers to people turning a deaf ear to this or that issue. The same is the case of course, to the term, turning a blind eye.

Looking at this myriad of reports, stories and quotes from all over the world, nearly every one who used this term - turning a deaf ear - used it in the same context - ignored or not listened to! This organisation had ignored this; the police had ignored that; the Local Authority had let those people down; people's lives were put at risk, etc. etc. People had either ignored something or they had failed to listen to what had been said or reported to them. Lots of different stories but frequent use of the term to describe inaction.

As this term is used daily, in a context that closely represents what Deaf people face every day of their lives, I found myself asking why there is such a reaction when we tell people we are Deaf. It means the same thing - we cannot hear!

Making things even more strange, I realised that in the majority of the references to 'turning a deaf ear' or 'deaf to their ...', the term is used to criticise the authorities for doing so, thereby expressing considerable negative value through the term 'deaf'.

If we were still in the days of political correctness, I suppose the term 'deaf', always used with negative connotations, could have been argued to be devisive to Deaf people. Some people may even have tried to raise that issue at the time, only of course, to find people turning a 'deaf ear' to that viewpoint.

Reflecting on the frequency with which people use this term in everyday life today, I don't think I'm too bothered that it is used to make a critical point. We should be able to benefit from the term 'deaf' being used so frequently. What I am bothered about, is that people should have a greater understanding of what it means to be Deaf and to be ignored as a result of that.

The message is easy. If a Deaf person presents themselves and nothing is done to accomodate their deafness, ignorance and isolation will occur. What is needed is action, an acknowledgement that a deaf ear is involved, so something needs to be done to overcome that. 

These reports, published every day, say that an issue should not have been ignored, a 'deaf ear' should not have been turned. All I ask is that the same dislike is applied to communication with Deaf people when people do nothing to help. 

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Deaf Life

22nd April 2015